- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2003

Nobles: American astronaut Michael Foale, for unsurpassed endurance and courage in his endeavor.

Mr. Foale might not receive many presents this Christmas, but he will have one of the world’s best seats for watching Santa Claus. That’s because Mr. Foale has been aboard the International Space Station since Oct. 18.

Those two months, added to the days Mr. Foale spent in orbit on previous missions, gave him the record for most cumulative time in space for an American astronaut last week. The previous mark of 230 days and 13 hours had been set by astronaut Carl Walz. By the time that he and cosmonaut crewmate Alexander Kaleri return in late April, Mr. Foale will have amassed 375 days in space.

This marks Mr. Foale’s sixth space mission since 1992. He has taken two trips to the space station Mir and been on a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. As a consequence, Mr. Foale is familiar with both the day-to-day discomforts of living in a small space where the machinery noise never stops (some astronauts liken it to living in a giant vacuum cleaner) and food tends to float away, and the dangers of being inside a small oxygen chamber surrounded by the merciless vacuum of space. During Mr. Foale’s tour aboard Mir in 1997, a Progress supply ship collided with the station, nearly killing all aboard.

The risks are worth it to the self-described addict of space flight, and it is not easy to disagree with his judgment. For enduring hardship and danger to live just a bit closer to the stars, Mr. Foale is the noble of the week.

Knaves: Rep. “Baghdad” Jim McDermott, for unsurpassed silliness and a crackpot conspiracy theory.

Conspiracies about the Bush administration seem to come up daily, but public figures should not give them a voice, much less any credence.

On a Seattle radio show last Monday, Mr. McDermott accused the administration of timing the capture of Saddam Hussein for political reasons. He told radio host Dave Ross, “There’s too much happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing,” and added, “when they’re having all this trouble, suddenly they have to roll out something.”

Yet even the Oliver Stone set would find such an idea a stretch. After all, great economic numbers have been rolling out through the fall, and while the War on Terror has hit a few bumps, it has not been going badly.

However, Mr. McDermott has made a habit of airing such errant ideas. Last fall, he earned his nickname by traveling to Baghdad (with Reps. David Bonior and Mike Thompson) and saying that, although he believed that Mr. Bush “would mislead the American people” to build support for the war, Saddam could be trusted to open his arsenals to inspectors.

Mr. McDermott is unlikely to stop spouting off anytime soon, since he seems to satisfactorily represent Seattle’s liberal latte drinkers. But regardless of what Mr. McDermott may believe privately, he has an obligation as a standing member of Congress to avoid making incredible insinuations against the administration.

For voicing — and endorsing — a fantastic plot, Mr. McDermott is the knave of the week.


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